We wrote about the slating that took place in Campbell County with the assistance of Democrat participation. That appeal is still making its way up to RPV State Central Committee. One story we have not written about yet is the Democrat involvement in the GOP canvass that took place in Fauquier County on March 22.
First of all, I’ve been involved in Republican politics here in Virginia for almost 20 years and I have never heard of the process that took place in Fauquier County. It is not to say that it is never done or necessarily against the party Plan (although it ought/should be), but I can promise you that Canvass elections are seldom used in this manner in Virginia.
The call stated that only 83 individuals may be voting members of the Fauquier County Republican Committee. Yes, you read that correctly. They limit the number of people that may join their party as voting members. Secondly, if you want to be one of these 83 individuals who get to be voting members on the Fauquier County Republican Committee, you must gather petition signatures from the general public, pay a mandatory filing fee and run as a candidate in the party canvass. Thirdly, any registered voter in Fauquier County (whether they are Republican or not) gets to come vote to determine whether or not you get to be a member of your local Fauquier Republican Committee. Every step of this sounds bizarre, right?
Party canvasses are typically used to elect local Republican nominees for public office. For example, the 10th congressional district just held a party canvass to determine who our nominee would be to replace Frank Wolf, who is retiring. I suppose it also would not be unheard of to even hold a party canvass for chairman of a local GOP committee. But I have never heard of a party canvass being held simply so you can join your local GOP committee. This clearly creates high barriers for participation and makes it very difficult for a grassroots political neophyte to navigate the process. It also opens the door for all those outside of the Republican Party to meddle in our local clubs and elections, which is exactly what happened in Fauquier County.
The big battle was for the chairmanship of the FCRC, supposedly between two “conservatives,” Scott Russell and Cameron Jones. As background, Fauquier County is home of Martha Boneta, whose multi-year private property battle with the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) and Fauquier County government resulted in the Boneta Bill being passed in the General Assembly. There is a huge division in Fauquier County between private property advocates and the environmentalist. Cameron Jones had the support of conservatives and private property advocates. Scott Russell (who is ironically president of the American Spectator Foundation) had the support of no-growth advocates and the PEC.
The election got nasty quickly and the game plan for the pro-Russell supporters quickly became clear. One letter that was widely circulated stated in part,
A group of tea-party and anti-zoning zealots, backed by out of county developers, are trying to take over the Fauquier County Republican Party. If they succeed next Saturday in winning the Fauquier County GOP Chairmanship and stacking the GOP County committee, they will be able to hand-pick pro-growth candidates for the County Board of Supervisors…
…Go vote in Warrenton next Saturday, any time between 9am and 2pm, at the Republican Canvas [sic]. Vote for the candidates on the ATTACHED SLATE: everyone can vote for Chairman and the At Large candidates. Voting should take just 5-10 minutes–you just walk in, show your drivers license, and fill out the ballot.
Another email went out by a Republican candidate running for one of the seats on FCRC that explicitly encouraged non-Republicans to vote in the canvass for a slate that included herself and Scott Russell. It stated in part:
You may share this with other registered voters if you like. There is a well organized and funded effort, within the Fauquier County Republican Committee, to change the direction of the county. These are extreme property rights activists – similar to the activists who destroyed Loudoun County…
…You do not need to be a Republican. Democrats, Progressives, Independents, Libertarians – all registered voters in Fauquier County are welcome to vote in the Fauquier County Republican Canvass on March 22nd, 2014
On the day of the Canvass a remarkable 1200 voters came out to vote for the chairman of the Fauquier Republican Committee and at-large committee members. Credentialing of voters did not check to see if these individuals had voted in Democrat primaries and it did not require them to state their support for the Republican Party. Scott Russell won by approximately 200 votes.
Since the election it has been determined that at least 120 individuals who voted in the canvass have participated in Democrat primaries or given money to Democrats. This doesn’t even capture the number of Democrats who only vote in general elections (and don’t vote in primaries or donate to candidates), since we don’t vote by party registration here.
Tomorrow the 1st District Republican Committee will hear the appeal of Cameron Jones, who is asking for the canvass to be repeated with proper checks in place to prevent Democrats from voting in the election. Clearly Democrats played a critical part in this election. We shall see what they say…